Another week over--and I am so many days nearer health, and spring! I
have now heard all my neighbour's history, at different sittings, as the
housekeeper could spare time from more important occupations. I'll
continue it in her own words, only a little condensed. She is, on the
whole, a very fair narrator, and I don't think I could improve her style.
In the evening, she said, the evening of my visit to the Heights, I knew,
as well as if I saw him, that Mr. Heathcliff was about the place; and I
shunned going out, because I still carried his letter in my pocket, and
didn't want to be threatened or teased any more. I had made up my mind
not to give it till my master went somewhere, as I could not guess how
its receipt would affect Catherine. The consequence was, that it did not
reach her before the lapse of three days. The fourth was Sunday, and I
brought it into her room after the family were gone to church. There was
a manservant left to keep the house with me, and we generally made a
practice of locking the doors during the hours of service; but on that
occasion the weather was so warm and pleasant that I set them wide open,
and, to fulfil my engagement, as I knew who would be coming, I told my
companion that the mistress wished very much for some oranges, and he
must run over to the village and get a few, to be paid for on the morrow.
He departed, and I went up-stairs.
Mrs. Linton sat in a loose white dress, with a light shawl over her
shoulders, in the recess of the open window, as usual. Her thick, long
hair had been partly removed at the beginning of her illness, and now she
wore it simply combed in its natural tresses over her temples and neck.
Her appearance was altered, as I had told Heathcliff; but when she was
calm, there seemed unearthly beauty in the change. The flash of her eyes
had been succeeded by a dreamy and melancholy softness; they no longer
gave the impression of looking at the objects around her: they appeared
always to gaze beyond, and far beyond--you would have said out of this
world. Then, the paleness of her face--its haggard aspect having
vanished as she recovered flesh--and the peculiar expression arising from
her mental state, though painfully suggestive of their causes, added to
the touching interest which she awakened; and--invariably to me, I know,
and to any person who saw her, I should think--refuted more tangible
proofs of convalescence, and stamped her as one doomed to decay.
A book lay spread on the sill before her, and the scarcely perceptible
wind fluttered its leaves at intervals. I believe Linton had laid it
there: for she never endeavoured to divert herself with reading, or
occupation of any kind, and he would spend many an hour in trying to
entice her attention to some subject which had formerly been her
amusement. She was conscious of his aim, and in her better moods endured
his efforts placidly, only showing their uselessness by now and then
suppressing a wearied sigh, and checking him at last with the saddest of
smiles and kisses. At other times, she would turn petulantly away, and
hide her face in her hands, or even push him off angrily; and then he
took care to let her alone, for he was certain of doing no good.
Gimmerton chapel bells were still ringing; and the full, mellow flow of
the beck in the valley came soothingly on the ear. It was a sweet
substitute for the yet absent murmur of the summer foliage, which drowned
that music about the Grange when the trees were in leaf. At Wuthering
Heights it always sounded on quiet days following a great thaw or a
season of steady rain. And of Wuthering Heights Catherine was thinking
as she listened: that is, if she thought or listened at all; but she had
the vague, distant look I mentioned before, which expressed no
recognition of material things either by ear or eye.
'There's a letter for you, Mrs. Linton,' I said, gently inserting it in
one hand that rested on her knee. 'You must read it immediately, because
it wants an answer. Shall I break the seal?' 'Yes,' she answered,
without altering the direction of her eyes. I opened it--it was very
short. 'Now,' I continued, 'read it.' She drew away her hand, and let
it fall. I replaced it in her lap, and stood waiting till it should
please her to glance down; but that movement was so long delayed that at
last I resumed--'Must I read it, ma'am? It is from Mr. Heathcliff.'
There was a start and a troubled gleam of recollection, and a struggle to
arrange her ideas. She lifted the letter, and seemed to peruse it; and
when she came to the signature she sighed: yet still I found she had not
gathered its import, for, upon my desiring to hear her reply, she merely
pointed to the name, and gazed at me with mournful and questioning
'Well, he wishes to see you,' said I, guessing her need of an
interpreter. 'He's in the garden by this time, and impatient to know
what answer I shall bring.'
As I spoke, I observed a large dog lying on the sunny grass beneath raise
its ears as if about to bark, and then smoothing them back, announce, by
a wag of the tail, that some one approached whom it did not consider a
stranger. Mrs. Linton bent forward, and listened breathlessly. The
minute after a step traversed the hall; the open house was too tempting
for Heathcliff to resist walking in: most likely he supposed that I was
inclined to shirk my promise, and so resolved to trust to his own
audacity. With straining eagerness Catherine gazed towards the entrance
of her chamber. He did not hit the right room directly: she motioned me
to admit him, but he found it out ere I could reach the door, and in a
stride or two was at her side, and had her grasped in his arms.
He neither spoke nor loosed his hold for some five minutes, during which
period he bestowed more kisses than ever he gave in his life before, I
daresay: but then my mistress had kissed him first, and I plainly saw
that he could hardly bear, for downright agony, to look into her face!
The same conviction had stricken him as me, from the instant he beheld
her, that there was no prospect of ultimate recovery there--she was
fated, sure to die.
'Oh, Cathy! Oh, my life! how can I bear it?' was the first sentence he
uttered, in a tone that did not seek to disguise his despair. And now he
stared at her so earnestly that I thought the very intensity of his gaze
would bring tears into his eyes; but they burned with anguish: they did
'What now?' said Catherine, leaning back, and returning his look with a
suddenly clouded brow: her humour was a mere vane for constantly varying
caprices. 'You and Edgar have broken my heart, Heathcliff! And you both
come to bewail the deed to me, as if you were the people to be pitied! I
shall not pity you, not I. You have killed me--and thriven on it, I
think. How strong you are! How many years do you mean to live after I
Heathcliff had knelt on one knee to embrace her; he attempted to rise,
but she seized his hair, and kept him down.
'I wish I could hold you,' she continued, bitterly, 'till we were both
dead! I shouldn't care what you suffered. I care nothing for your
sufferings. Why shouldn't you suffer? I do! Will you forget me? Will
you be happy when I am in the earth? Will you say twenty years hence,
"That's the grave of Catherine Earnshaw? I loved her long ago, and was
wretched to lose her; but it is past. I've loved many others since: my
children are dearer to me than she was; and, at death, I shall not
rejoice that I are going to her: I shall be sorry that I must leave
them!" Will you say so, Heathcliff?'
'Don't torture me till I'm as mad as yourself,' cried he, wrenching his
head free, and grinding his teeth.
The two, to a cool spectator, made a strange and fearful picture. Well
might Catherine deem that heaven would be a land of exile to her, unless
with her mortal body she cast away her moral character also. Her present
countenance had a wild vindictiveness in its white cheek, and a bloodless
lip and scintillating eye; and she retained in her closed fingers a
portion of the locks she had been grasping. As to her companion, while
raising himself with one hand, he had taken her arm with the other; and
so inadequate was his stock of gentleness to the requirements of her
condition, that on his letting go I saw four distinct impressions left
blue in the colourless skin.
'Are you possessed with a devil,' he pursued, savagely, 'to talk in that
manner to me when you are dying? Do you reflect that all those words
will be branded in my memory, and eating deeper eternally after you have
left me? You know you lie to say I have killed you: and, Catherine, you
know that I could as soon forget you as my existence! Is it not
sufficient for your infernal selfishness, that while you are at peace I
shall writhe in the torments of hell?'
'I shall not be at peace,' moaned Catherine, recalled to a sense of
physical weakness by the violent, unequal throbbing of her heart, which
beat visibly and audibly under this excess of agitation. She said
nothing further till the paroxysm was over; then she continued, more
'I'm not wishing you greater torment than I have, Heathcliff. I only
wish us never to be parted: and should a word of mine distress you
hereafter, think I feel the same distress underground, and for my own
sake, forgive me! Come here and kneel down again! You never harmed me
in your life. Nay, if you nurse anger, that will be worse to remember
than my harsh words! Won't you come here again? Do!'
Heathcliff went to the back of her chair, and leant over, but not so far
as to let her see his face, which was livid with emotion. She bent round
to look at him; he would not permit it: turning abruptly, he walked to
the fireplace, where he stood, silent, with his back towards us. Mrs.
Linton's glance followed him suspiciously: every movement woke a new
sentiment in her. After a pause and a prolonged gaze, she resumed;
addressing me in accents of indignant disappointment:--
'Oh, you see, Nelly, he would not relent a moment to keep me out of the
grave. _That_ is how I'm loved! Well, never mind. That is not _my_
Heathcliff. I shall love mine yet; and take him with me: he's in my
soul. And,' added she musingly, 'the thing that irks me most is this
shattered prison, after all. I'm tired of being enclosed here. I'm
wearying to escape into that glorious world, and to be always there: not
seeing it dimly through tears, and yearning for it through the walls of
an aching heart: but really with it, and in it. Nelly, you think you are
better and more fortunate than I; in full health and strength: you are
sorry for me--very soon that will be altered. I shall be sorry for
_you_. I shall be incomparably beyond and above you all. I _wonder_ he
won't be near me!' She went on to herself. 'I thought he wished it.
Heathcliff, dear! you should not be sullen now. Do come to me,
In her eagerness she rose and supported herself on the arm of the chair.
At that earnest appeal he turned to her, looking absolutely desperate.
His eyes, wide and wet, at last flashed fiercely on her; his breast
heaved convulsively. An instant they held asunder, and then how they met
I hardly saw, but Catherine made a spring, and he caught her, and they
were locked in an embrace from which I thought my mistress would never be
released alive: in fact, to my eyes, she seemed directly insensible. He
flung himself into the nearest seat, and on my approaching hurriedly to
ascertain if she had fainted, he gnashed at me, and foamed like a mad
dog, and gathered her to him with greedy jealousy. I did not feel as if
I were in the company of a creature of my own species: it appeared that
he would not understand, though I spoke to him; so I stood off, and held
my tongue, in great perplexity.
A movement of Catherine's relieved me a little presently: she put up her
hand to clasp his neck, and bring her cheek to his as he held her; while
he, in return, covering her with frantic caresses, said wildly--
'You teach me now how cruel you've been--cruel and false. _Why_ did you
despise me? _Why_ did you betray your own heart, Cathy? I have not one
word of comfort. You deserve this. You have killed yourself. Yes, you
may kiss me, and cry; and wring out my kisses and tears: they'll blight
you--they'll damn you. You loved me--then what _right_ had you to leave
me? What right--answer me--for the poor fancy you felt for Linton?
Because misery and degradation, and death, and nothing that God or Satan
could inflict would have parted us, _you_, of your own will, did it. I
have not broken your heart--_you_ have broken it; and in breaking it, you
have broken mine. So much the worse for me that I am strong. Do I want
to live? What kind of living will it be when you--oh, God! would _you_
like to live with your soul in the grave?'
'Let me alone. Let me alone,' sobbed Catherine. 'If I've done wrong,
I'm dying for it. It is enough! You left me too: but I won't upbraid
you! I forgive you. Forgive me!'
'It is hard to forgive, and to look at those eyes, and feel those wasted
hands,' he answered. 'Kiss me again; and don't let me see your eyes! I
forgive what you have done to me. I love _my_ murderer--but _yours_! How
They were silent-their faces hid against each other, and washed by each
other's tears. At least, I suppose the weeping was on both sides; as it
seemed Heathcliff could weep on a great occasion like this.
I grew very uncomfortable, meanwhile; for the afternoon wore fast away,
the man whom I had sent off returned from his errand, and I could
distinguish, by the shine of the western sun up the valley, a concourse
thickening outside Gimmerton chapel porch.
'Service is over,' I announced. 'My master will be here in half an
Heathcliff groaned a curse, and strained Catherine closer: she never
Ere long I perceived a group of the servants passing up the road towards
the kitchen wing. Mr. Linton was not far behind; he opened the gate
himself and sauntered slowly up, probably enjoying the lovely afternoon
that breathed as soft as summer.
'Now he is here,' I exclaimed. 'For heaven's sake, hurry down! You'll
not meet any one on the front stairs. Do be quick; and stay among the
trees till he is fairly in.'
'I must go, Cathy,' said Heathcliff, seeking to extricate himself from
his companion's arms. 'But if I live, I'll see you again before you are
asleep. I won't stray five yards from your window.'
'You must not go!' she answered, holding him as firmly as her strength
allowed. 'You _shall_ not, I tell you.'
'For one hour,' he pleaded earnestly.
'Not for one minute,' she replied.
'I _must_--Linton will be up immediately,' persisted the alarmed
He would have risen, and unfixed her fingers by the act--she clung fast,
gasping: there was mad resolution in her face.
'No!' she shrieked. 'Oh, don't, don't go. It is the last time! Edgar
will not hurt us. Heathcliff, I shall die! I shall die!'
'Damn the fool! There he is,' cried Heathcliff, sinking back into his
seat. 'Hush, my darling! Hush, hush, Catherine! I'll stay. If he shot
me so, I'd expire with a blessing on my lips.'
And there they were fast again. I heard my master mounting the
stairs--the cold sweat ran from my forehead: I was horrified.
'Are you going to listen to her ravings?' I said, passionately. 'She
does not know what she says. Will you ruin her, because she has not wit
to help herself? Get up! You could be free instantly. That is the most
diabolical deed that ever you did. We are all done for--master,
mistress, and servant.'
I wrung my hands, and cried out; and Mr. Linton hastened his step at the
noise. In the midst of my agitation, I was sincerely glad to observe
that Catherine's arms had fallen relaxed, and her head hung down.
'She's fainted, or dead,' I thought: 'so much the better. Far better
that she should be dead, than lingering a burden and a misery-maker to
all about her.'
Edgar sprang to his unbidden guest, blanched with astonishment and rage.
What he meant to do I cannot tell; however, the other stopped all
demonstrations, at once, by placing the lifeless-looking form in his
'Look there!' he said. 'Unless you be a fiend, help her first--then you
shall speak to me!'
He walked into the parlour, and sat down. Mr. Linton summoned me, and
with great difficulty, and after resorting to many means, we managed to
restore her to sensation; but she was all bewildered; she sighed, and
moaned, and knew nobody. Edgar, in his anxiety for her, forgot her hated
friend. I did not. I went, at the earliest opportunity, and besought
him to depart; affirming that Catherine was better, and he should hear
from me in the morning how she passed the night.
'I shall not refuse to go out of doors,' he answered; 'but I shall stay
in the garden: and, Nelly, mind you keep your word to-morrow. I shall be
under those larch-trees. Mind! or I pay another visit, whether Linton be
in or not.'
He sent a rapid glance through the half-open door of the chamber, and,
ascertaining that what I stated was apparently true, delivered the house
of his luckless presence.